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A modern guide to arranged marriages
Finished your studies, landed a job, and settled down? Like most other guys, marrying will probably be the next thing on your agenda. But, the dynamics of an arranged marriage have changed. Find out what the realities of this age-old tradition are, for a new generation.
"Nowadays, parents simply suggest the person they feel is suitable for their son or daughter. Only if their child approves (after interacting with him or her), do things move ahead. Also, children are now increasingly taking the initiative to find their own partners. The number of people putting up their profiles at matrimonial sites is a case in point. So, children are now 'arranging' their own marriages," says Sanjeev Sharma, 29, a software engineer currently in the 'marriage market', looking for a bride.
"By the new-age definition, an arranged marriage is just a 'set-up'. Parents introduce their children to each other, who meet and may even date for some time. Then, if and when they are ready, they get married," agrees Kamlesh Mathur, 27, a sales executive who has just joined the scene.
What are you looking for?
Who you will marry is one of the most important decisions you will make. Some questions that crop up include: What sort of a girl do I marry? Will she adjust to my family? How can I decide just by meeting her a few times? When should I marry? What if I make the wrong choice?
"Take a pen and paper and list the attributes you are looking for in a girl. For example, educational achievements, profession, appearance (looks, height, weight), etc. You might not find the 'perfect' girl, but you will have a fair idea of what you are looking for," says Sanjeev. "The key to choosing the right partner is to look for a person with a good character too, not simply a good personality," feels Kamlesh. Qualities to look out for include maturity and responsibility, a positive attitude toward life, commitment to the relationship, emotional openness, integrity and high self-esteem.
"Many men go for beauty when looking for a suitable bride. Sure, looks are important, but that should not be the most important criterion. Later on in life, it is her maturity and behaviour that will make all the difference," feels Sanjeev.
In arranged marriages, family support also plays a major role in ensuring a successful marriage. This is where compatibility of social status, family values and caste/religion may come in. "If she is going to live with your parents in a joint family set-up, it would be wise to take a few inputs from family members as well," advises Kamlesh.
Tell your parents
The selection process is tough on every one involved in it. In arranged marriages, the involvement of family and society is pretty high. Clearly define some minimum criteria for selection in terms of education, physical appearance, social status, family values, future career plans, etc., so your parents don't waste their time. "It would be unfair to meet a girl three to four times only to change your mind, as it can have repercussions for her too. You should have your criteria ready. Be clear about what you are looking for, so you meet fewer people," advises Jitesh Dwivedi, 28, a graphic designer who just finalised his match and will marry in December.
People often prefer partners from the same profession for better understanding. "For example, doctors sometimes prefer doctors for reasons that include being able to start a clinic together, etc. Also, the partner is better able to understand the working hours and professional difficulties. Thus, if you are looking for a specific match, convey it to your parents," says Dr. Bhaskar Gupta, 29, a pathologist who had an arranged marriage last year. "As I am over 6 feet tall and live abroad, my personal preference is someone fluent in English and at least 5'3" tall," adds Sanjeev.
It is important for you and/or your parents to check the educational and family background of a prospective partner. This can be done via a reference check, a visit to the workplace (or institute, if she's studying), through relatives, etc. The same process is used when the girl is abroad, but it is definitely more difficult. For one, a personal visit may not be possible and you have to rely on other sources for information. If you have friends/family abroad or living in proximity to the prospective bride, request them to meet her and check things out.
You can also perform an employer verification, check the visa status, request a medical test, etc. Also, communicate regularly through emails, phone, chat, etc. to know her better and get an insight into her lifestyle.
A meeting of minds
As we all know, it is difficult to judge a person based on a few meetings. How, then, do you select a life partner? "This is where you need to take additional help of other mediums of communication like phone, email, chat, etc. because it is sometimes possible to discuss issues more freely and actually get a better idea of the person through these mediums than in person," says Jitesh.
Whenever you do meet, relax and be yourself. Keep an open mind and don't hesitate to discuss important issues. Wear something that you look good and feel comfortable in. Try meeting away from the usual crowd of relatives, at some neutral place like a coffee shop, so you can interact without being influenced by others. Above all, trust your gut feeling.
Those days are long gone when youngsters getting married hardly knew anything about each other. Now you can ask just about anything and no one is supposed to take offence. "If you have questions that may seem uncomfortable but deal with the reality of today's social situation, or if you have doubts, by all means ask! Because NOT asking a question may ultimately prove to be a bigger mistake than asking," feels Dr. Bhaskar.
Here are some aspects that could be looked into once you get on familiar terrain.
Today, a lot of young people may already have had a previous relationship. "Though having had a relationship is neither uncommon nor something to be ashamed of, people sometimes bring some 'baggage' -- emotional and / or health-related -- from the previous relationship. Of course, this applies to both men and women. Now, a woman should be equally cautious if a guy tells her he has had relationships previously, and should look for signs of any serious issues," feels Dr. Bhaskar.
"Yes, a relationship in the past would be a concern for me. But then, my opinion can't be generalised for all couples. It is a very individual thing," says Kamlesh. "It is difficult to say, as it is a case-specific issue," adds Sanjeev. "I feel there is nothing wrong with it if it is a thing of the past. What is more important is to be faithful to each other after marriage."
"Yes, you and your partner should get one. Everyone knows the significance of getting oneself tested in today's day and age, but the way you approach it involves a good amount of emotional maturity on the part of both," says Sanjeev.
"It's not as if you can't ask the girl to be tested, but there is a degree of reluctance in asking, as it is a very delicate situation and people may feel insulted if not outraged. However, if tactfully handled, most people would respond favourably, even if they voice initial doubts," says Dr. Bhaskar. "What you can do is tell the girl (and / or her parents) that, like you, they too are probably aware of the increasing incidence of HIV and may be experiencing some apprehension about it. Moreover, a blood test can also check for thalassemia and Rh factor. You can possibly both get tested at the same reliable clinic and then proceed with the marriage without any doubts," he advises.
It's your call
Do remember, all said and done, it is your marriage and your life that is at stake. After you get married, you and your wife are the ones who will face the music. Don't marry a girl just because your parents or friends asked you to do so. "Once you marry, if things don't work out and you end up saying, 'It's only because of my parents that I married you', then your marriage is destined for disaster," says Sanjeev.
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